RIO DE JANEIRO — A top soap opera star in Brazil on Tuesday apologized for sexually harassing a female colleague on set, doing an about-face after days of claiming the woman was confusing his villainous character with reality.
In an open letter Tuesday, Jose Mayer acknowledged treating fashion stylist Susllem Tonani inappropriately.
"I was mistaken in what I did, what I said and what I thought," he wrote. "I am a product of a generation that learned, incorrectly, that sexist and abusive attitudes can be camouflaged as jokes."
In a blog post last week, Tonani, 28, accused 67-year-old Mayer of sexually harassing her. Tonani said that the abuse included touching her inappropriately while on set of Globo TV soap opera "Law of Love."
Tonani wrote that Mayer "placed his left hand on my genitalia" and would say to her, "I stare at your butt and imagine your breasts," among other offensive comments.
Mayer, who has a wife and daughter and has appeared in dozens of internationally known soap operas, initially denied the accusations. He told local media in interviews over the weekend that Tonani had confused the villainous character he was playing in the soap opera with reality.
Those denials were met with indignation, and on Monday Globo suspended Mayer indefinitely and removed him from the cast of a new soap opera that began airing this week.
Latin America's largest nation has long struggled with sexual harassment and domestic violence. Brazilian soap operas, known for their larger-than-life characters and unbelievable plots, are often translated into other languages and viewed around the world, particularly in Latin America.
On Tuesday, Globo actresses and staff shared photos on social media wearing T-shirts in support of Tonani.
"Mess with one, mess with all. #EnoughHarrassment," read the shirts.
In a statement Tuesday, Globo said it "rejects all and any form of disrespect, violence or discrimination," and that the matter was being dealt with.
The network also apologized to Tonani and said it regretted that the harassment had occurred in her workplace.
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Renata Brito, The Associated Press